The not-so-sweet truth about who’s really setting healthcare policy in the U.S.

There’s a message that’s at the heart of much of what I share with you, and it’s not one that wins me many friends. In fact, it’s caused me to be labeled a conspiracy theorist (or just plain crazy).

That message, as you know if you’ve been with me for a while, is that for every study, every article, every ad, and every piece of health advice you receive, you should follow the money. And do you know what you’ll often find at the end of the trail? That what you’re being told isn’t fact, it’s propaganda.

Does that make me sound crazy? Maybe.

But once you read what I’m about to tell you, I think you’ll start to see that I’m not on the hunt for conspiracy theories. I’m just exposing the truth about how medical advice is dispensed in this country. And it’s not pretty.

What I’m about to tell you will blow the lid off the corruption in some of the most highly respected, high-profile U.S. medical and public health institutions.

These institutions have supposedly been working to reduce the growing obesity epidemic in this country. You know the people who keep telling you to cut fat if you want to lose weight (while keeping totally mum about sugar)? Yeah, those people.

Well, it turns out that over the past five years, they’ve been filling their coffers with generous corporate sponsorships from two of the nation’s largest soda companies: Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo.

According to a new investigation by the Boston University School of Public health, these companies sponsored a total of 96 national health organizations over the past five years. Of those, 63 were public health organizations, 19 were medical organizations, seven were health foundations, and five were government organizations.

Included on the recipient list were the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the Obesity Society, as well as a number of cancer organizations.

At the same time, Coca-Cola lobbied against all 29 public health bills intended to reduce soda consumption or improve nutrition. And PepsiCo opposed 26 of 29 bills (90 percent).

So these companies are lobbying against efforts that could have a real effect on improving health and reducing unnecessary deaths in this country. With every successful lobbying attempt, the organizations charged with protecting our health willingly make themselves a part of the soda industry’s vast marketing machine.

And instead of taking a hard line stance against the worst diabesity epidemic the world has ever seen, our government is accepting money from the companies who profit from the epidemic.

But here’s the real kicker: The problem is probably far worse than what the Boston University researchers reported. Why? Because Coca-Cola only recently disclosed its sponsorship information, and PepsiCo still hasn’t done so. So this report almost certainly underestimates what’s really going on.

Plus, the authors only looked at national sponsorships — not state and local. And they only investigated these two companies. Many more are passing under the radar.

It’s clear to me that these corporations, working in their own best interests, are running the show in Washington. Their money is getting in the way of any real change in our nation’s soda consumption.

The sugar-sweetened beverage industry may very well be the primary cause of diabetes and obesity in this country. And in my opinion, they must be stopped. But when you have medical organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association — the two organizations who should be on the frontlines of this fight — taking money from the enemy…Well, there’s a real problem.

To be fair, some organizations — like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) — have chosen to break their affiliations with Big Soda.

But they didn’t do it until the end of 2015. While I applaud them for finally stepping up, we have known for decades about the direct correlation between soda and disease. Yet they didn’t stop accepting handouts until less than one year ago.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because this is exactly what Big Tobacco did. Cigarette ads used to feature smoking doctors. But the government finally stepped in and banned that. And it was effective.

So why aren’t they doing the same to the soda companies — whose products present an even more egregious threat to our public health and are targeted at children?

No, with soda, our government sits idly by and lets sugar-peddling bigwigs get richer and richer … while our population gets sicker and sicker.

Just to put this into perspective, consider this. Between 2011 and 2014, Coca-Cola spent more than $6 million annually fighting legislation to curb soda consumption. PepsiCo spent more than $3 million per year. The American Beverage Association, which is funded by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, spent more than $1 million annually.

Yet this was small change compared with what was spent to oppose the federal soda tax in 2009. Coca-Cola spent $9.4 million, PepsiCo spent $9.5 million, and the American Beverage Association upped its budget to $18.9 million.

We are talking about millions of dollars spent each year to keep us sick, with rubber-stamp approval from our nation’s health policy makers. In this world of expensive healthcare, those millions could make a huge difference if they were spent elsewhere.

It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see the connections here — it just takes a direct trip down the money trail to reveal who is really in charge of our country’s health laws.